Maneuvering in port: appropriate actions

9 July 2020 | | Reading time 3 minutes

A newbie might be impressed with how easily you handle such a big boat, but in truth it’s often easier than on a monohull. Provided you respect a few rules… and do some practice.

NB: In this article, we haven’t reviewed each maneuver according to different wind directions, but rather have looked for the rules that apply systematically and that are valid in each case.

A little speed please!

Due to its dimensions, the height of the superstructure and its rig, a catamaran will have much more windage than a monohull. This is why you’ve always got to keep a bit of speed on when maneuvering.

For this reason, it’s very important to always keep the wind direction in mind when maneuvering and preferably avoid positioning yourself with the wind on the beam.

The throttles, not the helm…

Locate the midships position of the helm before beginning your maneuver, by turning the wheel or using the instruments. The ideal is to keep the wheel amidships and only maneuver using the engines.

Maneuver the stern towards the dock

If possible, always try to bring the stern closer to the dock first, to facilitate a crewmember stepping ashore via the sugarscoops, to take the lines. Once the boat is secure at the stern, it isn’t difficult to bring the hulls parallel to the pontoon by leaning on the stern line or using spring line with the opposite engine and take your time to moor the bow.

Into the wind

If you can, always opt to maneuver into the wind rather than be pushed by it. And familiarize yourself in an open space with the full potential of inversing maneuvers using both engines (one going ahead, the other, astern) allowing you to turn on the spot, whatever the size of your catamaran.

The best defense is…

To maneuver a catamaran off the dock or, on the contrary, to bring it back parallel to the dock, the maneuver most frequently used is springing off: one of the springs is cleated off on the pontoon and only one of the two engines is engaged: the engine of the hull opposite the dock if the boat is being brought alongside, the engine of hull alongside the dock if the boat is departing.

In each case, two or three big fenders, either flat or preferably cylindrical shape (but especially not round) are needed on board, which have the advantage of not rolling and scratching the gel coat and of better absorbing the load which can be important.

Speaking of fenders, be careful never to put them in line with the hull portholes as this could lead to the windows being damaged by the pressure of the fender.

Sign language

The raised helm position of modern catamarans usually allows a panoramic view which encompasses all four corners of the boat. On the other hand, you are quite a distance from the crew members waiting at the extremities of the boat with their mooring lines coiled ready to deploy. Learn to communicate with your hands rather than by shouting, which usually only adds stress (and disturbs the neighbors!). One rotation of the finger raised to say “forward” or “astern”, a clenched fist to say “stop” and as many fingers to indicate the distance remaining before reaching the pontoon.

To learn how to maneuver in video: